The Ralston Group was an anarchic early 90s TV3 political chat show. Ringmaster Bill Ralston wrangled a caucus of political and media industry insiders, ranging from broadcaster Derek Fox and writer Jane Clifton to Peter Williams QC and PR man Richard Griffin. The irreverent show offered in the moment opinions on an especially heady era in NZ politics. A 2003 issue of The NZ Herald remembered it as “the best sort of dinner party: noisy and gossipy, the guests well informed, well lubricated with lots of opinions and zero inhibition.”
This 'docu-soap' put six 20-somethings into a rented house for three months — including a beauty contestant and a live-in cameraman. It was one of a series of 90s reality shows observing homelife which were soon to become a phenomenon, thanks to Big Brother. But without a lockdown or 24-7 surveillance, Flatmate's charms were more quaint, offering a homespun twist on MTV's pioneering The Real World (which debuted in 1992). The show was broadcast on now-defunct channel TV4, and made a minor celebrity of outspoken flattie Vanessa.
This series centred on a weekly TV current affairs programme in mid-90s Wellington. Katie Wolfe stars as stroppy journalist Amanda Robbins: lured back from Australia for her tabloid style in an effort to boost the show's ratings. Tackling timely storylines and shot ‘handheld’ in the NYPD Blue-inspired style, the TV3 series was well reviewed but faced its own ratings struggles (a later series screened on TV One). It was Gibson Group’s second foray into producing a TV drama series, after Shark in the Park. A pre-Lord of the Rings Fran Walsh was a series writer.
City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
The Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards were the big fashion event of the year from the mid 60s through to the 90s. The show was organised by Josephine Brody, with a TV version screening later. Model turned agent Maysie Bestall-Cohen organised the ‘B&H’ from 1982. An early 80s screen hiatus ended with TVNZ screening a live-to-air show from 1984 to 1998 — the Michael Fowler Centre event was one of its biggest outside broadcasts. In the later 90s the show was known as the Smokefree Fashion Design Awards (after tobacco company sponsorships were outlawed).
Made for TVNZ’s Heartland channel, this series saw veteran newsreaders looking back at memorable moments in New Zealand history, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Covering both news events and popular culture, the show combined archive content and interviews with those who were there. Each decade was covered over a week, nightly from 7.30 - 10pm. The TV legends presenting the screen nostalgia included Dougal Stevenson (covering the 60s), Jennie Goodwin (70s), Tom Bradley (80s) Judy Bailey (90s) and Keith Quinn (who joined in the second season).
In the early 80s Ready to Roll was NZ’s premier TV pop show. It emerged in the pre-music video boom mid-70s hosted by Roger Gascoigne (and later Stu Dennison) with bands and dancers live in the studio. By the early 80s it was a seamless video clip Top 20 countdown — introduced by the Commodores pumping ‘Machine Gun’ — and appointment Saturday evening viewing for music fans (and a regular in the week’s Top 10 rating shows). It then evolved into a brand, got retitled RTR Countdown, and spawned multiple RTR offshoots (Mega-Mix, Sounz and New Releases), before disappearing in the mid-90s.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
Hosted by Jason Gunn, McDonalds Young Entertainers was a popular late 90s talent quest for teenagers. A house troupe of singers and dancers (Super Troopers, a Kiwi take on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club) helped the contestants prepare for the judges, and opened and closed each show. Judges included King Kapisi, Tina Cross and Stacey Morrison. Young performers who featured included Ainslie Allen, Hayley Westenra, Sticky TV/C4 host Drew Neemia, actor Michelle Ang (Neighbours, Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462) and concert pianist John Chen.
Life in the Fridge Exists was a late 80s/early 90s teen magazine show that ranged from celebrity interviews to profiles of young artists and athletes, and health education (presented by Dr Watt, aka radio presenter Grant Kereama). The Christchurch-based show saw early appearances by comedian/actor Oscar Kightley (in his screen debut), Amazing Race presenter Phil Keoghan, future Lotto host Hilary Timmins, and broadcasters Kerre McIvor (née Woodham) and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby. Life in the Fridge Exists was also the name of a short-lived Wellington band.